What You Need To Know

Santiago is the capital and largest city of Chile. It’s also the center of its largest conurbation. Santiago is located in the country’s central valley, at an elevation of 520 m (1,706 ft) above mean sea level. Founded in 1541, Santiago has been the capital city of Chile since colonial times. The city has a downtown core of 19th century neoclassical architecture and winding side-streets, dotted by art deco, neo-gothic, and other styles. Santiago’s cityscape is shaped by several stand-alone hills and the fast-flowing Mapocho River, lined by parks such as Parque Forestal. The Andes Mountains can be seen from most points in the city. These mountains contribute to a considerable smog problem, particularly during winter. The city outskirts are surrounded by vineyards and Santiago is within a few hours of both the mountains and the Pacific Ocean. Santiago’s steady economic growth over the past few decades has transformed it into a modern metropolis. The city is now home to a growing theater and restaurant scene, extensive suburban development, dozens of shopping centers, and a rising skyline, including the tallest building in Latin America, the Gran Torre Santiago. It includes several major universities, and has developed a modern transportation infrastructure, including a free flow toll-based, partly underground urban freeway system and the Metro de Santiago, South America’s most extensive subway system. Santiago is the cultural, political and financial center of Chile and is home to the regional headquarters of many multinational corporations. The Chilean executive and judicial powers are located in Santiago, but Congress meets mostly in nearby ValparaísoSantiago is named after the biblical figure St. James.

Area: 641 km²
Population: 5.3 Million


Currency of Santiago de Chile. The currency in Chile is called the peso. There are currently six coins in circulation, which come in denominations of 1, 5, 10, 50, 100 and 500. Peso bills come in denominations of 1,000, 2,000, 5,000, 10,000 and 20,000.


Only a few historical buildings from the Spanish colonial period remain in the city, because Santiago – like the rest of the country – is regularly hit by earthquakes. Extant buildings include the Casa Colorada (1769), the San Francisco Church (1586), and Posada del Corregidor (1750). The Cathedral on the central square (Plaza de Armas) is a sight that ranks as high as the Palacio de La Moneda, the Presidential Palace. The original building was built between 1784 and 1805, and architect Joaquín Toesca was in charge of its construction. Other buildings surrounding the Plaza de Armas are the Central Post Office Building, which was finished in 1882, and the Palacio de la Real Audiencia de Santiago, built between 1804 and 1807. It houses the Chilean National History Museum, with 12,000 objects that can be exhibited. On the southeast corner of the square stands the green cast-iron Commercial Edwards building, which was built in 1893. East of that is the colonial building of the Casa Colorada (1769), which houses the Museum of Santiago. Close by is the Municipal Theatre of Santiago, which was built in 1857 by the French architect Brunet of Edward Baines. It was badly damaged by an earthquake in 1906. Not far from the theatre is the Subercaseaux Mansion and the National Library, one of the largest libraries of South America. The Former National Congress Building, the Justice Palace, and the Royal Customs Palace (Palacio de la Real Aduana de Santiago) are located close to each other. The latter houses the Museum of pre-Columbian art. A fire destroyed the building of the Congress in 1895, which was then rebuilt in a neoclassical style and reopened in 1901. The Congress was deposed under the military dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet (1973–1989), and after the dictatorship was newly constituted on 11 March 1990, in Valparaíso. The building of the Justice Palace (Palacio de Tribunales) is located on the south side of the Montt Square. It was designed by the architect Emilio Doyére and built between 1907 and 1926. The building is home to the Supreme Court of Chile. The panel of 21 judges is the highest judicial power in Chile. The building is also headquarters of the Court of Appeals of Santiago. Bandera street leads toward the building of the Santiago Stock Exchange (the Bolsa de Comercio), completed in 1917, the Club de la Unión (opened in 1925), the Universidad de Chile (1872), and toward the oldest churchhouse in the city, the San Francisco Church (constructed between 1586 and 1628), with its Marian statue of the Virgen del Socorro(“Our Lady of Help”), which was brought to Chile by Pedro de Valdivia. North of the Plaza de Armas (“Square of Arms”, where the colonial militia was mustered) are the Paseo Puente, the Santo Domingo Church (1771), and the Central Market (Mercado Central), an ornamental iron building. Also in downtown Santiago is the Torre Entel, a 127.4-meter-high television tower with observation deck completed in 1974; the tower serves as a communication center for the communications company, ENTEL Chile. The Costanera Center was completed in 2009, and includes housing, shopping, and entertainment venues. The project, with a total area of 600,000 square meters, includes the 300-meter high Gran Torre Santiago (South America’s tallest building) and other commercial buildings. The four office towers are served by highway and subway connections.


Apoquindo Avenue, the financial center of Santiago, Santiago is the industrial and financial center of Chile, and generates 45% of the country’s GDP. Some international institutions, such as ECLAC (Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean), have their offices in Santiago. Currently under construction is the Costanera Center, a mega project in Santiago’s Financial District. This includes a 280,000-square-metre (3,000,000 sq ft) mall, a 300-meter (980 ft) tower, two office towers of 170 meters (558 ft) each, and a hotel 105 meters (344 ft) tall. In January 2009 the retailer in charge, Cencosud, said in a statement that the construction of the mega-mall would gradually be reduced until financial uncertainty is cleared. In January 2010, Cencosud announced the restart of the project, and this was taken generally as a symbol of the country’s success over the global financial crisis. Close to Costanera Center another skyscraper is already in use, Titanium La Portada, 190 meters (623 ft) tall. Although these are the two biggest projects, there are many other office buildings under construction in Santiago, as well as hundreds of high rise residential buildings. In February 2011, Gran Torre Santiago, part of the Costanera Center project, located in the called Sanhattan district, reached the 300-meter mark, officially becoming the tallest structure in Latin America. The strong economy and low government debt is attracting migrants from Europe and the United States.

Health and security

Healthcare, all workers and pensioners are mandated to pay 7% of income for health insurance (the poorest pensioners are exempt from this payment). Workers choosing not to join an Isapre are covered by Fonasa. Fonasa also covers those receiving unemployment benefits, uninsured pregnant women, the dependent family of insured workers, those with mental or physical disabilities, and the poor or indigent.

Carabiniers of Chile and Santiago are the Chilean national police force, who have jurisdiction over the entire national territory of Chile.


Languages of Santiago de Compostela. Although Spanish is the official national language, the local tongue is Galician. Castilian is also a language spoken by many local and area residents. Galician is related to Spanish, but has a strong affinity to Portuguese as well.

Natural disasters

Due to Santiago’s location on the Pacific Ring of Fire at the boundary of the Nazca and South American plates, it experiences a significant amount of tectonic activity. The first earthquake on record to strike Santiago occurred in 1575, 34 years after the official founding of Santiago. The 1647 Santiago earthquake devastated the city, and inspired Heinrich von Kleist’s novel, The Earthquake In Chile. The 1960 Valdivia earthquake and the 1985 Algarrobo earthquake both caused damage in Santiago, and led to the development of strict building codes with a view to minimizing future earthquake damage. In 2010, Chile was struck by the sixth largest earthquake ever recorded, reaching 8.8 on the moment magnitude scale. 525 people died, of whom 13 were in Santiago, and the damage was estimated at 15-30 billion US dollars. 370,000 homes were damaged, but the building codes implemented after the earlier earthquakes meant that despite the size of the earthquake, damage was far less than that caused a few weeks earlier by the 2010 Haiti earthquake, in which at least 100,000 people died.



There are many ways to get in and around Santiago, with Airlines, Railways, Inter-urban buses, Highways, Public transport.


Urban issues

Santiago by Human Development Index on a commune-basis. As is typical for Chile, Santiago is an economically divided city (Gini coefficient of 0.47). The western half (zona poniente) of the city is, on average, much poorer than the eastern communes, where the high-standard public and private facilities are concentrated. In Santiago, as with much of Chile, stray dogs are very common. However, rabies is practically non-existent in Chile.



Santiago has a cool semi-arid climate (BSk according to the Köppen climate classification), with Mediterranean (Csb) patterns: warm dry summers (November to March) with temperatures reaching up to 35 °C (95 °F) on the hottest days; winters (June to August) are more humid with cold mornings; typical daily maximum temperatures of 13 °C (55 °F), and minimums of a few degrees above freezing. Mean rainfall is 282 mm (11.10 in) per year, about 80% of which occurs during the winter months (May to September), varying between 50 and 80 mm (1.97 and 3.15 in) of rainfall during these months. That amount contrasts with a very dry season during the summer months between December and March, when rainfall does not exceed 4 mm (0.16 in) on average, caused by an anticyclonic dominance continued for about seven or eight months. There is significant variation within the city, with rainfall at the lower-elevetion Pudahuel site near the airport being about 20 percent lower than at the older Quinta Normal site near the city centre. Santiago’s rainfall is highly variable and heavily influenced by the El Niño Southern Oscillation cycle, with rainy years coinciding with El Niño events and dry years with La Niña events. The wettest year since records began in 1866 was 1900 with 819.7 millimetres (32.27 in) – part of a “pluvial” from 1898 to 1905 that saw an average of 559.3 millimeters (22.02 in) over eight years incorporating the second wettest year in 1899 with 773.3 millimetres (30.44 in) – and the driest 1924 with 66.1 millimeters (2.60 in). Typically there are lengthy dry spells even in the rainiest of winters, intercepted with similarly lengthy periods of heavy rainfall. For instance, in 1987, the fourth wettest year on record with 712.1 millimeters (28.04 in), there was only 1.7 millimeters (0.07 in) in the 36 days between 3 June and 8 July, followed by 537.2 millimeters (21.15 in) in the 38 days between 9 July and 15 August. Precipitation is usually only rain, as snowfall only occurs in the Andes and Precordillera, being rare in eastern districts, and extremely rare in most of the city. In winter, thesnow line is about 2,100 metres (6,890 ft), and it ranges from 1500 metres (4900 feet) up to 2900 metres (9500 feet).